Aquarium diving

AvatarBy Richard Aspinall 3 years ago
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RCA_0683The subject of keeping sharks and other large fish species in aquaria generates a lot of debate.  Some folk say they should not be kept in such small enclosures – even a multi-million gallon public aquarium is small for a wide-ranging species after all, while others say they do fine and help educate the public about marine conservation.  It’s a big argument that I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified to argue from on side or another.  What I would say is: if you get the chance to get in the water with such large exhibits, it can be quite amazing. 

Dotty the Leopard Shark

Dotty the Leopard Shark

 A few years ago I was asked to do some photography of the fish in a large public aquarium in the UK.  This involved spending time with the on-site diving staff who hand feed the animals and ‘perform’ for the public during the daily rota of talks and demonstrations. RCA_0631 This aquarium also allows members of the public to try a shallow scuba dive with the fish, though I am aware that this is not something that all aquarists and curators support. RCA_0421 I had a great time shooting the animals, though the sharks were truly wary of me and the electronics in my camera gear.  I’d been given a through safety briefing and told not to interact with the fish, especially during the hand feeding.  I should add that the larger species such as Sand Tiger Sharks were not hand fed while divers were in the water; they were fed using fish on the end of sticks.  I had a try at this and it’s quite an experience to have a half-ton fish biting down on a piece of wood you are holding onto.  I should add that hand feeding is essential to ensure each fish receives the correct amount of nutrition and medications (if any) it needs. RCA_0204What struck me though was just how personable the fish were.  Cat sharks, Bamboo sharks and a Leopard shark were so curious (and perhaps hungry) that they seemed almost dog-like in their desire to be fed and in some cases to demand a rub of their tummies.  I was quite transfixed, but mindful to follow the rules, so I kept my hands firmly on my camera. RCA_0316 I’d be interested to hear what other people think of this sort of encounter.  Personally I enjoyed it, and I can see how these fish act as (albeit unwittingly) ambassadors for their relatives in the oceans.    

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About

 Richard Aspinall

  (315 articles)

Richard lives in Scotland where he works as a freelance writer and photographer. Richard writes for several magazines on topics as diverse as scuba diving, travel and wildlife.

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